Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Way I See It...

**Authors Note** Please feel free to skip the following post. I wrote this more for myself than for the kind people who drop by our little cyber-bar. I don't do this sort of thing as a rule, and I won't be doing this again, but if you are interested, crack a cold one and read on.**

I've had a little time to catch up on your blogs here as of late. Now that thanksgiving is over, my hours at the bakery have fallen off, and I've had a little time to poke around on the computer. I've been reading a lot about peoples faith. I read a lot of blogs written by atheists, and that is just fine. They are all wonderful, thoughtful, and from what I can tell, very kind people. They are good parents, spouses, and citizens. I think the world would be much more enriched if we had a few more like them. And while I don't subscribe to this point of view, I can kind of understand how they arrived at it, and I am gladdened that they believe in something. Nihilism isn't the way to go.

I've been giving this a lot of thought here as of late, what with Christmas coming and all. I've a good friend that just changed to a new faith and he is exploring all the nuances that his new religion offers. He seems happy, and that is what is important, after all, what more could you wish for a friend? His change in faith stems from the fact that his old one didn't answer his questions and often contradicted itself. He dug deeper and started asking more probing questions, only to find that this solved nothing. It only conjured up harder questions.

In talking to people about their faith, I've found that most of them have had it shoved down their collective throats by zealots and fanatics. I don't know about you but I don't want my religion served to me the same way that people have tried to strong arm me into joining Amway. No Thanks! I can understand completely why this would be enough to steer people away. It would me!

I am probably walking a minefield here, but trust me, I tread lightly. It also occurred to me that a blog dedicated to beer and jokes is not the proper forum for this sort of discussion, but as this is my sole outlet to the world at large, I beg your pardon and will venture on. As forewarning, at no point will I try to convince you I'm right. That is for someone else to do, and I want no truck with it. You have your own mind, and after following your writing for a year or so, I believe that you are smart enough to follow it.

While most people seem to have had religion doled out to them like a sharp stick in the eye, mine came like a postcard from an old friend. My family were members of the local baptist church and we went most every Sunday. Now when I say it was a baptist church most people think of bible-thumping, hellfire and brimstone, and a preacher that approaches his job like it was a shouting contest. It was not like that at all. Yes, it was a baptist church in the fact that we believed that a person should be old enough to decide if they wanted to be baptised and join the faith, as opposed to the catholics who wanted to sprinkle the holy water on the kid's forehead as soon as the cord was cut. There ends the similarity between our church and what most people would associate with southern baptists. Sure, we were connected with other churches in a loose confederation, but each church made it's own rules and didn't insist that everyone abide by the same set.

The guiding principle of our church was that each person came to know God in his own way. The relationship between the Creator and the created was different from person to person, and no amount of zealotry could change that. What worked for one person didn't mean that it would work for another, and certainly not for everyone. In my casual study of other peoples beliefs this seems to be a very unique stance. Most every other faith I've come across wants everyone to subscribe to the exact same set of rules, and if you do it slightly different, you are WRONG and have secured for yourself a one-way ticket to a hot place, and I don't mean Florida. Yes, it was a very tolerant faith.

The other guiding principle was "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Even as a child this seemed pretty straight forward. I won't steal your lunch, because I don't want you to steal mine. I won't call you names and insult your mother, because I don't want you to do that to me. I won't tell you how to run your life, and I expect you to do the same. I will not fuck your wife, because I don't want you putting the moves on mine. But while this sounds like a rule driven solely by self-interest, there is another subtler side of it. I won't do these things to you because I love you, just as my God loves me and He has shown me how to love, and I believe that you have a lot of good in you. I don't believe that you are totally good because I've never met anyone that I thought was totally good. We all have our shortcomings, but with some work, we can overcome those and grow to be better people and start helping each other out.

I know there are people out there who can quote long passages of the bible and can argue the finer points of what it says, but I'm not one of them. Most of what I know about the bible I learned in Sunday school and they just gave us the short simple version, usually told using paper dolls on a board covered in felt, but I feel like I got the gist of it. Regardless of the story, the point was do some good in this life, avoid doing harm, love your neighbor, and pray. I seem to recall a passage that recommends having the faith of a child, and I believe that is what I have, but I don't think that is a bad thing. It just makes it a little simpler to keep the rules straight.

I am not a deeply religious man. I don't attend church. I say a small prayer over every piece of food that passes my lips, not because I think that this will make it "holy" or it will hold any sway with the Big Guy Upstairs, but simply because I find it a good time to check in with Him, and it reminds me to work a little harder at not being some rat-bastard who goes through life making things worse. At different points in my life I have had what some people call a "crisis of faith", but each time I used the brains that God gave me to solve it for myself, but I am not so audacious to suggest that my answer would work for you. You are on your own in that regard.

I am reminded of my faith every morning as I pull on my underwear, and not because I am thankful for some magnificent attribute that he has seen fit to gift me with, far from it. I know that this is a peculiar thing to say but it is true. On the waistband of my undies it has the letters "FTL" printed all the way around. I know that this is simply Fruit of The Loom reminding me who's underwear I've purchased, but I don't think of Fruit of The Loom. I think "Feel The Lord" and as I adjust them and get them into a comfortable position, I feel as if I am girding myself with armor to protect me from the slings and arrows that await me that day. It is a reassuring feeling.

My children have received very little religious training, mostly because they are too young and it would be a little much for them, but from their infantsy I have used one rule to guide them. We call it rule #1. Rule #1 is simple: Do No Harm. This means we don't hit anyone, or say mean things, or take things from them, or tear something up just for the hell of it. All of these break rule #1. Regardless of what life holds in store for them, I think that this is a good place to start and it might help them through some tough choices along the way, at least I hope so.

I have known people of other religions other than Christianity and every one of them struck me as a good person. At least they have some kind of moral code to go by. While the Hindus and the Native Americans have multiple gods in their faiths, I don't have any problem with that, because I think that perhaps they are singling out different facets of the same god and just giving each his own name. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, even though they each call him something different. You and I might have a mutual friend and you call him Robert, while I know him as Bob, it is still the same person. We should just count ourselves lucky that we have a friend and move on, regardless of what we call him. Perhaps I am a simple-minded old fool, and most days I would own up to that fact, but that doesn't change what I believe.

I know there are a lot of people out there who celebrate Christmas and don't particularly hold to any one faith, but in my mind, that is okay. Christmas, to me, is a time to be reminded of one guy who came along and suggested that it was a great idea that we all be nice to each other for a change and do some good while we are here, even if some bozo's are determined to see that peace on earth never happens.



  1. Aaaahhh, I see the FSM has touched you with His Noodly Appendage this holiday season!! Say "yarr, matey!" R'amen.

    I have come from the funeral of a baby who died in utero. She was 1.88 lbs and 11". Her name was Hannah. The interfaith minister who handled the service said a lot of stuff about God, much of which sounded like well-meaning bullshit. I'm inclined to stick with only the first two verses of Psalm 22 in this instance.

    Of course, i'm also semi-convinced that NOT being a Bible scholar and getting the flannelboard version of Scripture probably has SAVED YOU from a great deal angst o'er all the troublin' bits that your friend has been tied up with.

    Frankly, when it comes to religion, I'm thinking that Sturgeon's Law applies: "90 percent of everything is crap." I think at LEAST 60% of what we're told about God by ANY religious figure-- from the Christian preacher who told folken on the radio that bears have claws to shred veggies in Eden, to the Imam who promises 72 virgins in heaven-- is crap. Rule #1 is probably the most intelligent way to live your life religiously that I can thunk of.

  2. I'm about to say something unfair-- ignore me.

    There were little cards @ this funeral, a picture of an angel on the front and a poem on the back written by the child's grandmother. One of the lines she used was "God needed a little angel."

    No doubt this was intended by the poet to be a way of smoothing the way and attempting to explain in some meaningful way WHY, if God is so ruddy GOOD, why he decided to "take this child to heaven".

    Unfortunately, I've been given an overly analytical mind (shocking, I know-- you never knew this about me) and the first thing I thought of when I read that line was, "there's EIGHT BILLION people on earth. He needed THIS child? BEFORE she was BORN??"

    Then, on the heels of that, "Hmmm... that's funny, during that whole angels trend during the 90's people were very careful to say that angels were NOT human..."

    and then, "lessee, He created this lil' girl, and then suddenly He needed her back. In the UN-politically correct language of my childhood in the Midwest, we'd call a person like that an 'Indian Giver', which was highly insulting. Seems to imply that God makes mistakes, yes?"

    In other words, as well-meaning as these words were (and I DO hope they brought comfort to the parents, for that is why they were written), where *I'm* concerned, it's total crap.

    The GOOD news is that these words were not written for ME and it doesn't matter a pair of fetid dingo kidneys whether they brought ME comfort or not, and therefore my pointy-headed lil' logical take on these words ain't worth a fart in th' wind.

  3. After I posted this, for the rest of the day, I had this nagging feeling I shouldn't have, yet I can't bring myself to delete it.


  4. I can relate to what you're saying about not shoving religion down anyone's throat. Actually, that's what put me off religion at an early age. Normally, I'd leave a long response, but I've been blogging for so long now that pretty much everything I've ever thought is on my blog somewhere. My POV on religion is here. It includes a fair bit about Baptists, I believe. However, the Baptists of the Midwest (at least where I grew up) seem completely different than what you've described. It was very much shouting fire & brimstone back then, and torturing my little mind with rapture stories that sounded like Night of the Living Dead.

  5. "... I can't bring myself to delete it."

    Not to worry, Doc, that's probably an issue that will be solved by the Great Blogger In The Sky.

  6. "I am reminded of my faith every morning as I pull on my underwear, and not because I am thankful for some magnificent attribute that he has seen fit to gift me with."

    Dammit, Doc, you're making me show great tolerance here.

  7. But seriously.

    Doc, you wear your religion the way it's supposed to be worn: as a support to your life, and as a guide to mankind's (and more specifically your) behaviour. Religion doesn't work when it excludes other beliefs, as that poor British teacher in the Sudan can tell you.

    I choose not to believe in anything that can't be explained in a logical way, and that tends to put God (not just the Christian one; all of them) on shaky ground for me. The Bible is a collection of millennia-old legends in my estimation: poorly remembered, inaccurately related and, most galling, made up of ancient Eastern stories retold by Western writers to a Western audience that can scarcely relate to ancient Eastern values in the first place. Many of the Bible's teachings have no relevance today, but all of the Bible's best teachings are simple common sense that don't require any doctrine in order to acquire validity. I think it's a shame that so many Christians allow the the Bible to give them bad advice. The Catholic Church is guilty of this, beyond words. Recitation of the Scriptures is a parlour trick. It has nothing to do with belief.

    Feeling better now, Doc, I hope I haven't upset you or any of your readers. Please forgive me for hijacking your blog to post my own opinions.

  8. Mr. Green, I've got to praise you like I shooooooouuuuulllld...

    The Bible is a collection of millennia-old legends in my estimation: poorly remembered, inaccurately related and, most galling, made up of ancient Eastern stories retold by Western writers to a Western audience that can scarcely relate to ancient Eastern values in the first place.

    Well sprach, man! R'amen!!

  9. Doc, I think that's one of the best-written explorations of personal faith I've seen in a long time. Good on you for writing it.

    If you don't mind my asking, what denomination Baptist was your family? We attended an American Baptist church for years, and I have had really good experiences with some of thethe non-creedal Protestant churches like American Baptists and UCC.

  10. Until now, I'd never have guessed that I would have wished to be a Southern Baptist Doc! Great post about the way you see things and a very moving one too.

    I tend to look for the logic in things and can vouch that having religion drilled into you from a young age does very little good.

    I still look for and find wonder around me, I just don't attribute it to what's his name.


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